Baby with Rare Skin Disorder Gets Life-Changing Treatment

Baby with Rare Skin Disorder Gets Life-Changing Treatment

MADRID —Doctors in Spain have found a life-changing treatment for a 9-month-old baby suffering from a rare, incurable disease that caused her to have thick, dry skin.

The baby girl, whose name was not disclosed, was born earlier this year at Nino Jesus Hospital in Madrid weighing 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds), which is a slightly above average for a newborn.

The baby skin before the treatment. (H. Gregorio Maranon/Real Press)

However, over time, her weight dwindled to half of what is expected in babies her age, which meant she is considered severely malnourished with a risk of death, according to the World Health Organization.

The child suffers from ichthyosis,  a rare incurable skin disease that produces thick scaly skin, with varying degrees of symptoms or areas of the body affected, leading to serious discomfort and increasing the chance of infection.

The condition kept the baby from feeding or sleeping properly.

One of the doctors treating her, Rafael Correa, said in a press statement obtained by Zenger News, that the patient was missing an important protein in charge of maintaining her skin’s structure..

He added  her skin was “unstructured” and though the genetic mutation cannot be helped, the inflammation process caused by the disease could be treated to reduce the symptoms.

Doctors studied 150 different variables and used a mathematical algorithm to compare them with healthy children.

They found the patient had two cells linked to the inflammation. They applied a medicine used to treat psoriasis in adults, which is also directed at the altered cells causing the baby’s symptoms and subsequent malnourishment.

The patient has since gained enough weight to be considered average and her symptoms have almost disappeared, giving hope to others suffering from the illness.

However, she has not been cured and will require periodic injections of the treatment. Doctors hope her immune system will adapt to the medication over time.

“We should encourage doctors to take initiative and find solutions to give patients their daily routine back,” Jose Maria Soria de Francisco, president of the Spanish Association for Ichthyosis (SAI) told Zenger.

The members of the team participating in the project. (H. Gregorio Maranon/Real Press)

He explained  there are 36 types of ichthyosis, each with its own properties. Using the findings from this case, scientists could offer individual treatments to among the 300 people reportedly suffering from it in Spain. Statistics on how many such cases there are on a global scale were not immediately available.

Most patients suffering from ichthyosis need to spend about two hours daily applying cream-based skin treatments to relieve their symptoms. The medicine can cost 250-500 euros (roughly $300-$585) monthly, and it’s not covered by the Spanish health-care system.

“Ichthyosis knows no borders and can affect rich and poor families alike,” says SAI’s president.

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Fern Siegel)

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Suspected drug dealer allegedly throws dog to the dogs

Suspected drug dealer allegedly throws dog to the dogs

Police making a drug-related raid at an apartment in southeast Spain encountered a pack of starving dogs in unsightly conditions, as well as an injured dog that had apparently been thrown to the other animals to be eaten as food. Police in El Ejido said they arrested the unit’s dweller, a 23-year-old man only identified by the initials F.J.R.S, on charges earlier this month that include animal abuse and drug possession.

A police spokesman said that the injured animal was a mixed-breed German shepherd that could be seen in the video with an injury that left it unable to walk. Police said the dog only survived because it was rescued at the last minute by officers on the scene.

The National Police said in a new release that the investigation started after several complaints from the suspect’s neighbors, who said they believed he was selling drugs from his home, which they claimed also contained a hidden marijuana crop. Officers began watching people coming and going from the property, with visitors staying very briefly, and allegedly saw cannabis plants on the terrace.

They raided the property and managed to stop the six malnourished dogs from eating the pooch which had allegedly been thrown to them as food. The suspect reportedly saw the officers coming, and according to the press release, tried to escape by jumping from terrace to terrace dressed in only his underwear. Officers eventually managed to surround and arrest him.

The dog that was intended as food for the other dogs. (Newsflash)


Animal control catches the malnourished dogs. (Newsflash)

The suspect is in custody awaiting trial, per an order from the Instructional Court of El Ejido. The National Police said that animal abuse in which the creature is injured but does not die is punishable with up to one year in prison in Spain. Information on the penalties associated with the drug charges he faces were not immediately available.

The dogs, meantime, were placed in the care of the SOS Adopta animal protection association.

(Edited by Matthew Hall.)

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Greyhound survives being beaten, tossed in river in a sack in Spain

Greyhound survives being beaten, tossed in river in a sack in Spain

One of three dogs that had been beaten and thrown into a river in a sack in Spain has survived after being found by two cyclists and rescued by an animal protection group.

Spanish Civil Guard officer examines the bag at the scene. (Newsflash)

The three dogs, all Spanish sighthounds, or greyhounds, (Galgo Espanol), were found by two bike riders in an area known as Gil Gomez de Arahal, in the province of Seville in the southern region of Andalusia, near the Guadaira River on June 30.

Olga Diana, president of the El Amparo del Sur animal protection association, drove there after the unnamed cyclists called her.

The riders, “saw there was a nose coming from one of them [the bags] and the bag was open and the dog ran away, but it came back by itself shortly after,” she said.

Volunteers from the association went to the scene and called police after they found the three dogs, which all had been microchipped and belonged to the same person, Diana said.

The three dogs had been beaten and placed inside sacks, which were then closed with a rope, the Spanish Civil Guard confirmed in a press statement. The dogs were then thrown into the river and only the survivor managed to get its nose out of the bag to breathe.

“In Spain there is a widespread hunting tradition that involves torturing and killing approximately 60,000 greyhounds (Galgos) a year,” SPCA International (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) states on its website.

Video shows volunteers caring for the wounded dog while the sacks containing the other dogs are pulled from the river.

The bodies of the dogs can be seen packed into the sacks with visible wounds to their heads.

The Civil Guard confirmed that a 60-year-old man who lives in the town of Arahal is being investigated as the alleged perpetrator. The man’s name was not given.

The sighthound that survived was taken to the Moron de la Frontera veterinary clinic, where it was determined the dog had suffered a serious blow to the head, injuries to its legs and further injuries to its nose caused by an improvised muzzle.

The dog, named Gabi, was also infected with parasites.

The dog is recovering properly, Diana said, but “it is scared of men and avoids them.”

The surviving dog being attended to by vets. (Newsflash)

She is seeking to have the dog officially given to the association so the group can help find it a new family.

The killing of sighthounds “used to happen, especially in areas where hunting with Greyhounds is common, like in Andalusia and Castilla La Mancha,” said Javier Sanabria, coordinator of the political party PACMA, an animal rights party, in Seville.

He said it is done “for many reasons — they are getting old, they are useless because the animal does not have the skills they want, but not all greyhounds are hunters or have the skills for hunting.”

(Edited by Judy Isacoff.)


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An Elephant Reunion: Touching Trunks Equals Happy Together

An Elephant Reunion: Touching Trunks Equals Happy Together

Three generations of elephants were recently reunited at a German zoo and promptly celebrated by touching their trunks through a set of bars that was used to separate them initially. That meeting went so well that the elephants are now being allowed to interact without bars.

These “awww…” moments took place after a 39-year-old elephant, Pori, was moved from her former home at Tierpark Berlin Zoo to the Bergzoo in Halle, Germany. Once there, she was reunited with her 19-year-old daughter, Tana, after 12 years of separation, as well as her granddaughters, Tamika, 4 and Elani, 1.

In the wild, zoo officials say, female elephants tend to remain with their mothers, and this reunion was part of a program slowly recreate this natural process in herds being held in captivity. (Bull elephants, meantime, tend to leave the herd to form new relationships.)

Reunited gran, mom and grandchild elephant meet in outdoor area. Pori, Elani, Tamika and Tana in an undated photo. (Zoo Halle/Newsflash)


Reunited gran, mom and grandchild elephant meet in outdoor area. Pori, Elani, Tamika and Tana in an undated photo. (Zoo Halle/Newsflash)

“Pori’s arrival in Halle is an important step in modern elephant husbandry,” said zoo director Dennis Muller. “In the future, all elephant herds in European zoos should be cared for in such natural family structures. Today we have come a great deal closer to this goal.”

The initial photographs were taken when the elephant house was closed to allow the separated family to get to know each other. Zookeepers then allowed the four to be together in the outdoor area surrounding the zoo’s elephant house. The staff then noticed the elephants communicating with each other by making low rumbling noises that sound similar to thunder, with lots of trunk contact.


Muller said it was a really touching moment as the granddaughters Tamika and Elani met their elderly relative, with the littlest elephant even trying to suckle from his grandma. At one point, Pori lifted her leg to allow the youngster to safely stand underneath her.

Mueller said with the reunion, his zoo is the only one in Germany in which elephant cows from a single matriarchal line live together.

Pori is an African elephant (Loxodonta) who was born wild in Zimbabwe in 1981 and brought to Germany to the Magdeburg Zoo, where she lived from 1983 to 1997, when she was sent to the for Tierpark Berlin for breeding purposes. In 2001, she gave birth to and raised her first calf, Tana, with whom who she has now been reunited.

The elephants in an outdoor area at the Tierpark Berlin Zoo in an undated photograph. (Zoo Halle/Newsflash)

The monitoring of such elephant populations in zoos is part of a global conservation breeding program run by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which consists of committees made up of experts from zoos in designated geographic areas that work to determine optimal herd compositions and any resulting animal moves.

Overall, the African elephant is listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Red List of Threatened Species,” thanks to such factors as loss of habitat and hunting.

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Stephen Gugliociello.)

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Italy Was Hit Hard In the First Wave of the Pandemic. Its Schools Are Still Recovering.

Italy Was Hit Hard In the First Wave of the Pandemic. Its Schools Are Still Recovering.

After Italy shut down in March as the Covid-19 pandemic spiraled out of control, only a handful of the middle school students Liliana Starace works with managed to attend online classes. And some of those who did refused to turn on their cameras, the teaching assistant said, because they were ashamed of showing the conditions in which they live.

Some, she said, muted their devices while their parents argued in the background.

The 38-year-old teaching assistant works in a middle school in Gianturco, an impoverished neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples, Italy. She said that even those who did engage with online learning had “a very difficult experience.” Many of her 14-year-old students felt unprepared for high school or had given up on school altogether, she said.

Italy’s nationwide lockdown closed all schools and non-essential businesses. After the strict and early response to contain the coronavirus outbreak bore fruit, restrictions were eased in May. Though restrictions on personal movement were eased for the first time in two months and more than 4 million Italians were allowed to join work, schools remained closed and students finished the academic year remotely.

Schools across the country are set to reopen on Sept. 14, and uncertainty persists amid fears that students could be forced to return to online learning if safety measures prove unworkable or a second wave necessitates another lockdown.

Italy’s centralized school system is seen as strongly egalitarian, but when the schools were closed and students were confined to their homes, social differences became evident.

“Middle school is a true melting pot of different social classes, it’s not like high school where there is some degree of selection. Those with families who support them and the means to study were doing fine before the pandemic and continued to do so with distance learning, while the rest quickly lost interest, and it was even harder for us to reach them through a screen,” Starace said.

While Italy’s education minister Lucia Azzolina has since called online learning a success, that assessment was more positive than her report to the Italian parliament in late March, in which she stated that as many as 1.6 million students of the 8.3 million students enrolled in the country’s public school system—encompassing preschoolers from three years old to high school seniors—were not attending online classes.

Almost half of the Italy’s students reported problems with their Internet connection; 33.5 percent had to share their devices with their family members, according to a Civic Survey On Distance Education At The Time Of COVID 19 conducted by Cittadinanzattiva, a non-profit organization. The survey also found that more than 40 percent of households in Campania did not own a computer or a tablet.

Regional socioeconomic disparities present further challenges. Just 14 percent of households owned a device per person in Southern Italy compared with more than 26% in Northern Italy, according to a report from ISTAT. Some of the students living in overcrowded or substandard housing were reluctant to use video conferencing to communicate with classmates and teachers.

Poverty is a barrier to online learning for many students, particularly in southern Italy: “26.7% of people in Campania report difficulties in reaching the end of the month, almost three times the national average (9.7%),” according to a 2019 Italian National Institute of Statistics report.

While more than 37 percent of Campania’s workforce is unemployed, more than 1 in 5 workers are in temporary or insecure employment. Additionally, Campania has one of the highest levels of early school leavers in Italy with more than 18.5 percent of students dropping out before finishing high school. More than 99 percent of children aged 4-5 years attended a pre-primary or primary school in 2017-18 in Campania.

Tristana Dini, a 38-year-old parent and teacher, is campaigning as part of a local group of teachers and parents for the safe reopening of schools. She works with a hospital with pediatric cancer patients and is used to wearing a mask at work and taking precautions to protect her patients’ health.

“If there is one thing that my experience has taught me, it is that the benefits of education far outweigh the health risk, which can also be managed if one takes basic precautions,” she said.

Social distancing, one of the primary measures recommended to prevent transmission of coronavirus, is especially hard in Naples’ overcrowded and dilapidated schools.

“There are schools where entire wings are falling apart and are too dangerous to be used. The result is that we have classes with as many as 35 students,” Dini said.

Lorenzo Pasqua, a 16-year-old high school student from Naples, had a positive experience with distance learning. “My school had an experimental coding program so every student already had a computer, and we all knew how to use it,” he said.

While Pasqua hopes to return to classes during the upcoming academic year, he understands the challenges reopening will entail. “School is essentially a place where a bunch of unrelated people meet and spend a lot of time in close contact; therefore, the pandemic poses a serious problem,” he said. “Should the number of infections begin to rise again, I would be very, very anxious at school.”

(Edited by Ruth Doris and Vandita Agrawal.)

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6 Fallen Angels Nabbed in Tenerife Drug Bust

6 Fallen Angels Nabbed in Tenerife Drug Bust

Six Hells Angels bikers were recently arrested in a major drug bust on the Spanish island of Tenerife, the Spanish Civil Guard has announced.

The coordinated, large-scale operation saw the members of the notorious motorcycle club arrested on charges of production and distribution of cannabis, said Inmaculada Gonzalez, spokeswoman for the the guard’s office in Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

Marijuana plants seized during the operation in Tenerife, in an undated photograph. (Real Press)

Six houses and two crops of cannabis plants were raided simultaneously by officers of the Civil Guard and Agencia Tributaria, the Spanish tax agency, in the towns of Guargacho, Garachico and Adeje on island, located in the Spanish region of the Canary Islands.

Authorities confiscated more than 1,000 marijuana plants.


Gonzalez said the Civil Guard relied on cooperation from authorities in other European countries, as international arrest warrants and extradition requests had already been issued for several of the arrested men. The six alleged drug ring included two Germans, one Pole, one French citizen, a Serb and one Spanish national. All had criminal records, the Civil Guard said.

The operation was the result of a comprehensive investigation that began September 2019 and included the cooperation of police and customs in Denmark, Norway and Germany.

One of the suspects, charged with overseeing production at one of the cannabis crops, had an extradition warrant from Serbian authorities. In Serbia, he had been linked to the notorious international Pink Panther criminal gang, accused of robberies and jewelry thefts that total more than $200 million.

Another suspect is wanted by French authorities for crimes linked with the procurement of drugs, police said.

The farming, production and distribution of drugs finance the activities of Hells Angels in the Canary Islands. Other sources of income include the operation of tattoo shops and providing security services at brothels, the Civil Guard said.

Police prepare to knock down the door of the alleged Hell’s Angels apartment. (Real Press)


Police prepare to knock down the door of the alleged Hell’s Angels apartment. (Real Press)


Items seized during the operation in Tenerife at an unknown date. (Real Press)

In addition to confiscated plants, the raid removed large amounts of already processed cannabis dried and readied for distribution. Also seized were seven illegal weapons, two carbine pneumatic weapons, a taser gun, a truncheon, a machete and two knives, as well as a GPS and 20 electrical devices, the content of which is still being examined.

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is one of America’s most notorious exports. Founded in California in 1948, it now has chapters worldwide. The club’s members are often recognized by their Harley-Davidson motorcycles and leather vests adorned with the club emblem, a winged skull.

Today, the club, which has often been associated with organized crime, such as drugs, prostitution and extortion, is active in 58 countries worldwide, 41 in Europe. The club has an estimated 2,500 members worldwide and is a major source of drug-trafficking, the U.S. Department of Justice reports. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson offered a rare inside look at the gang and its criminal and violent ways in his 1967 book, “Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.”

(Edited by Fern Siegel and Matthew Hall.)

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